You may remember the lawsuit brought against Facebook by a company called Timelines.com, over the former’s digital scrapbook feature, also called “Timeline”. The smaller company claimed that if Facebook went ahead and infringed on its trademark with the new feature, Timelines.com would be “eliminated” due to customer confusion and, on that basis, was granted a temporary order preventing Facebook from rolling the feature out to users. Well, Facebook has decided to fight back–and it’s going in for the kill.
In papers filed Tuesday, Facebook has countersued Timelines.com, asking the court to declare that not only is Facebook not infringing on any trademark, but also that Timelines.com be stripped of its trademarks because they’re too generic. Because, clearly, it’s better to try and remove a company’s right to own a trademark that you’re not infringing upon, just to make sure that you’re doing nothing wrong.
Facebook is arguing that “Timeline” is such a commonly-used word that any trademark on it would be ridiculous. In its filing, it cites 10 other websites using the term, including Google, explaining that the U.S. Trademark office referred to these sites last month when refusing to expand the scope of Timelines.com’s existing trademarks.
Legally, the court does have the power to strip Timelines.com’s trademarks from it if it can be proven that the initial claim was weak, which is what Facebook is attempting to do here. This nonetheless seems a surprising move for Facebook, which has previously legally fought other companies seeking to use “book” in their web domains, in large part because it seemed as if Timelines.com and Facebook were approaching a settlement outside of the courtroom. Somehow, I doubt we’ll be avoiding a courtroom showdown at this point, however.
Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.